Walking the Earth with the Cornerstones
By Magdalena Smyth, Summer Servant and Bethlehem Farm Enthusiast, Exeter, New Hampshire
After completing my 11 weeks this past spring/summer at Bethlehem Farm, I was easily able to come home and pinpoint how I wanted to cultivate the four cornerstones in my daily life. But the thing that stuck out to me was how the Lord was subtly (well, it felt subtle then but looking back, I’m not sure how I missed it) planting those cornerstones in my life before I had arrived at the farm and could even identify them.
In January of 2020, I decided to spend a year committed to service to my neighbor. With no plan and practically no money, I found ways to travel and serve different communities. I spent two months in Ireland working in a Camphill Community (an intentional community for intellectually disabled adults). While I was there, I worked on a farm, in a school, and in the living facility itself. It was then that without me realizing, seeds of sustainable ways of living in a community, as well as a prayerful, simple lifestyle were being planted in my life.
After Ireland, I traveled to northern Albania (which is tucked in snugly between Montenegro and Greece), where I lived with three Catholic nuns and twelve young Albanian girls. I took on the role of their English teacher as well as doing chores throughout the day for the sisters. Simplicity took on a whole different meaning for me there as Albania is a fairly poor country. I learned about living with what I strictly need and authentically sharing that with the people around me. Prayer became a central vein within my daily activities with daily mass and adoration. I learned to let go of many crutches which I had been unknowingly depending on for a while.
After Albania, I found myself in the mountains of West Virginia on a farm I had never heard of until a couple of months prior to applying to be a Summer Servant. Learning about the four cornerstones more deeply once arriving, I instantly was convinced that cultivating them in every way possible was vital to the flourish of my mental, physical and spiritual health. I learned about different ways of prayer outside of the traditional forms, the importance of sustainability for us, our neighbors, and our future generations, how community living can be beautiful, stressful, and just right for me, and lastly how a life of service is the vocation God is calling me towards.
A mother bird knows her chicks can’t eat and digest food without her chewing it first and then slowly feeding it to them. In the same way, now looking back, I think our Creator knew that in January 2020, I wasn’t ready to make drastic changes to my lifestyle yet to incorporate the four cornerstones. Our Lord, in all His glory and patience, slowly taught me how to lay down what is good and find what was best. And boy, am I glad He did.